This one starts with Flash returning to Central City after a leisurely morning jog around the equator (show off!) Flash is enveloped in a cloud and starts laughing like a maniac. Turns out Trickster is planning a crime and decided to get Flash out of the way. Trickster’s gas is a mixture of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), helium, and a few other things; it not only makes Flash laugh uncontrollably, it causes him to float up off the ground where he can’t use his speed. He’s laughing too hard to concentrate on saving himself, but figures he can use that to his advantage. He lets the laughter loose, doubling himself over, and uses the momentum to start spinning at super-speed. That blows the gas away from him, and everything goes back to normal. (Which doesn’t make sense … doesn’t laughing gas get into your bloodstream or something? Just blowing the cloud away wouldn’t cure his laughter. Maybe his super-metabolism got the gas out of his system really quickly.) Meanwhile, Trickster has been breaking into some millionaire’s place to steal a fancy chess set. When he gets outside, his flying scooter is out of position, which he soon realizes is due to Flash. The Scarlet Speedster is creating a vortex to keep Trickster’s scooter from flying away. Trickster pours on the speed and gains some distance, but suddenly runs out of gas … literally. If you buy that coincidence, here’s another: before Flash can pull Trickster’s scooter back to the ground, the stolen chess set falls from Trickster’s bag and Flash is knocked out by one of the pieces. (You’d think he was Green Lantern or something.) Trickster takes off and when Flash wakes up he can’t look for the villain, since he’s late for work. He gets to the police station to meet his new
Captain, Darryl Frye, who talks like he swallowed a dictionary and is a stickler for punctuality. Barry’s still reeling from Frye’s first impression when he’s pleasantly surprised to see his old pal Frank Curtis, undercover cop. Frank tries to set Barry up with some woman, saying he’s grieved over Iris long enough, but Barry says he’s still not ready. Barry is ready to work over his lunch break but remembers he has some movers coming to his house. I guess the house he shared with Iris holds too many memories, so he’s moving to an apartment in a singles’ complex called Utopia Towers. Barry zips home and packs everything up in about ten minutes, then follows the movers to Utopia Towers. At the apartment, he almost runs over a goofy-looking guy carrying a suitcase that says “Toys Unlimited” on it; I wonder who that might be? Inside, Barry meets one of his new neighbours, a total babe named Fiona Webb. Unfortunately, he has no game whatsoever and she blows him off without even a word. (He certainly seems to have gotten over Iris, though.) Barry meets another neighbour, Mack Nathan, who invites him over for supper. Turns out Mack lives with his ten year-old son, Troy. Mack works at STAR Labs, and he’s currently working on some top-secret nuclear propulsion thing that he can’t talk about. Troy shows them the new remote-controlled space-robot he got from a door-to-door salesman. Later that night, the robot starts walking around by itself and breaks into Mack’s safe to photograph blueprints of his top-secret project. Mack gets up for a midnight snack and smashes the spy robot with a hammer. When he shows it to Barry the next morning (while giving Barry a ride to work), Barry finally realizes the weirdo “toy salesman” he almost ran into was Trickster in disguise. The robot starts spewing tear gas and Mack goes off the road and over a cliff. He’s rather conveniently knocked out, so Barry switches to Flash and uses a whirlwind to lower the car to safety. Trickster is waiting on his fancy flying scooter to retrieve his spy robot and Flash chases him into the air by running on the scooter’s exhaust particles (!) Trickster tries to blast Flash with his exhaust, but Flash vibrates and the exhaust goes right through him. He flips the scooter over in mid-air, sending Trickster flying. Not long after, Barry explains to Mack that Flash caught Trickster and brought him safely to ground, then punched him out. I’m not sure why that was described instead of shown … they must’ve run out of room on the last page.
- If you’re wondering what happened to the last police Captain Barry worked under, he went to prison for running a drug ring out of police headquarters. Let’s hope this new guy is less felonious.
- Frank mentions that it’s been almost a year since Iris died; I’m assuming there’s a continuity gap somewhere between issues.
- If Mack works for STAR Labs, would he really keep blueprints and stuff at home? Would he even be allowed to? Wouldn’t all that stuff be STAR Labs’ intellectual property or something? I assume he’s on a work-for-hire contract.
- It looks like this is meant to be one of those “new broom” issues that establishes a new status quo; Barry moves to a new place (for swinging singles), thinks about dating, and meets new characters. (And a new villain next issue.) I get that they’re trying to move on from Iris’s death (which was done to boost flagging sales), but it seems a little abrupt. But it looks like Iris is now firmly in the past and Fiona is the future … so to speak.
This is the continuation of the Cartel storyline from a couple of issues ago. Wonder Woman interrogated Gaucho after his capture and he told her about the Cartel’s training ground in California that looks just like the African veldt, so she’s come to check it out herself. Her approach hasn’t gone unnoticed though, and another plane comes in and tries to shoot down her invisible jet with heat-seeking missiles. She pulls some fancy maneuvers to evade the missiles and smashes through the other plane’s wing to force it down. The pilot bails out, but before she can land and ask him about the Cartel, he’s grabbed by a dude in an orange-and-black costume. Of course, we know who it is (because he’s on the cover) but Wonder Woman assumes he’s another costumed villain working for the Cartel, trying to protect the downed pilot. She tackles him and he takes on the strength of a nearby elephant (they’re in a recreation of the African veldt, remember?) and pops her one. She’s startled by his strength and by how fast he runs away from her with the unconscious pilot. She chases him and downs him with a rock, but when she tries to check on the pilot, he gasses her. Wonder Woman uses her lasso to disperse the gas, but the pilot is gone. Her erstwhile adversary introduces himself as Buddy Baker, aka Animal Man, and explains his powers. At first, she says she’s never heard of him (how flattering), then she remembers him being in the news for fighting the “Mod Gorilla Boss” (how unflattering). Buddy tells Wonder Woman his origin (found a radioactive space probe and gained the ability to mimic the powers of any animal within sight, tried to be a crimefighter but couldn’t make a go of it, ended up doing stunt work for movies) and why he’s after the Cartel. Apparently, Buddy’s old friend Roger Denning had a nasty argument with a movie director (Roger is a screenwriter) and threatened to kill him right before he was blown to bits. Buddy has been trying to clear Roger and found out that a scumbag producer named Sloan hired the Cartel to kill the director. Buddy put the squeeze on Sloan (literally … there was an octopus in a terrarium in Sloan’s office) and Sloan told him about the African veldt training ground. So Buddy figured the downed pilot might lead him to the Cartel, but he’s disappeared. Buddy borrows a hyena’s sense of smell and finds a metal door concealed under the ground. Wonder Woman tears it open and they head inside an underground bunker, where they’re almost blasted by automatic guns. They evade the gunfire and find a bunch of caged animals. Some guards ambush them, but they’re no match for Wonder Woman and Animal Man (who uses the agility of a monkey to fight the guards). Wonder Woman points out that the guards aren’t real Cartel operatives, they’re just thugs meant to kill them if possible while everyone else escaped. Luckily, the Prime Planner (head of the Cartel) seems to want a showdown with Wonder Woman; there’s a monitor that shows the location of the Cartel’s back-up base … which looks to be in the South of France. We’ll see what happens in the final showdown next issue.
- Buddy says Sloan hired the Cartel to whack the director because he didn’t want to pay him the percentage he owed on a blockbuster he just directed. If that was grounds for murder, there’d be nobody left in Hollywood.
This is kind of a weird issue: there’s a framing sequence that carries on the storyline from last issue, but there’s a flashback sequence in the middle (by a different creative team) telling a tangentially related story. You’ll remember last issue Green Lantern went to Oa to stop the Weaponers of Qward from taking over. He and the other Green Lanterns just managed to thwart the Qwardians, but the Weaponers’ leader, General Fabrikant, got away. But we know (even if GL doesn’t) that Fabrikant is actually disguised as Fabian, the “innocent” kid GL rescued from Qward a couple issues ago. Fabian has been staying with Carol at Ferris Aircraft, which is where GL ends up after returning from Oa. Lantern is pretty banged up, but Carol’s just pissed off that he’s been missing work in his civilian identity as Hal Jordan. When Fabian comes in, GL’s ring speaks, saying “Be careful!” Fabian (and Tom Kalmaku, who’s also back working for Carol) are startled by the ring’s “voice”; GL says the ring technically doesn’t talk, although he thought it did for years until a recent adventure taught him otherwise. They ask to hear the story and we get into the flashback part of the issue, which happened about six months ago when Hal was still driving a truck …
The flashback starts with Green Lantern stopping some hijackers stealing a load of antique cars. GL manages to stop the truck temporarily (and save the cars from getting smashed), but his ring cuts out before he can wrap up the hijackers. He borrows one of the antiques (a priceless Bugatti … at least, it was) and chases the crooks down. He manages to bluff them into stopping before they mow him down, but right afterward, his ring starts working again. GL asks the ring what’s going on but it says it can’t tell him because “the other” won’t let it. GL realizes he felt a mental tug every time the ring cut out and knows someone else is siphoning its power. He tracks the stolen power to the State Penitentiary, where the culprit turns out to be Hector Hammond. Hammond has figured out a way to mentally drain energy from GL’s ring, which he uses to give himself the mobility to search the solar system for another fragment of the meteor that first changed him. Hammond figures if he can get more of the meteor, he can retain his hyper-intellect but restore his lost mobility, making him much more dangerous. He demonstrates his new power by causing the prison wall to morph into a stone fist and grab Green Lantern, Hammond goes back to space to look for the meteor, leaving GL trapped. Lantern realizes the animated stone must have some residue of the ring’s energy in it, so he uses his will power to ease the stone’s grip enough to bust loose. He recharges his ring and tracks Hammond down in space, where they toss meteors at each other and engage in an arm-wrestling match with giant green energy hands. Hammond’s will power gives out and GL has to save him from the frozen vacuum of space. GL explains that he just had to keep Hammond occupied until the remaining 24 hours-worth of energy he stole was used up. And that’s the end of the flashback …
… which still doesn’t explain how the ring talks. GL tells them that the ring is just taking his own subconscious thoughts and verbalizing them out loud, like a weird sort of Rorshach test. Or, as Tom puts it, the ring says things GL doesn’t know that he knows. Carol takes Fabian home (and she’s still pissed off at Hal) and says she’ll start looking for his relatives tomorrow. As soon as she leaves him alone, “Fabian” (aka Fabrikant) puts on his Weaponer uniform and thinks how stupid Carol is. He acknowledges that the Weaponer invasion was thwarted by GL, but figures he can at least get some revenge on the hero. We’ll see how that turns out next issue.
- The on-and-off problems with GL’s ring were an ongoing subplot a year or so ago, but it was supposedly resolved when the Guardians gave him a new Power Battery. Apparently the problem continued for a while until it was finally put to rest as we saw in this story.
- If the ring’s “voice” is GL’s subconscious talking to him, why didn’t he take its warning more seriously?
- I’m not sure what the point of the “story-within-a-story” was here; maybe to explain away GL’s talking ring? Or maybe just to use up an inventory story they had lying around?